A grandson of Bob Lanphere, Chase Lanphere, 9, poses with Sr. Krista Von Borstel this summer at Camp Howard. (Courtesy CYO/Camp Howard)
A grandson of Bob Lanphere, Chase Lanphere, 9, poses with Sr. Krista Von Borstel this summer at Camp Howard. (Courtesy CYO/Camp Howard)
Deep in Mark Auxier’s childhood memories are clear images of CYO sports, recollections that helped drive a commitment to the organization throughout his life. The 64-year-old has third-grade memories of “going up to Fern Hill park and watching all the CYO football games on Saturday mornings…. St. Charles would be playing somebody… The Cub game was played first. The Cadet game was second. And all the families from opposing sides would be hooting and hollering” for their teams.

Auxier went on to play CYO basketball and baseball before competing as a catcher for the University of Portland, a team that made it all the way to the NCAA regionals. Three of his four children joined CYO teams and now two of his grandchildren play CYO basketball. Auxier is a CYO donor and his employer, Patrick Lumber, matches his gift.

CYO seems to bring together mind, body and spirit, “getting kids away from their TVs, their computers, their cell phones,” he says, “putting them in team settings and under an umbrella of the Catholic faith and the sense of fair play.”

It’s a tool for evangelization for Auxier. “Every basketball game starts with a prayer… and whether you're Catholic or not, it puts the competition in the context that God is above us all.”

As a child, Bob Lanphere – yes, that Bob Lanphere of the Autogroup – attended St. John the Baptist School in Milwaukie. He remembers watching a helicopter install the church’s iconic steeple.

His connection to CYO also is generational. His three children joined different teams and attended Camp Howard. This summer his grandchildren joined in the Camp Howard experience as well. Lanphere says CYO is just as important as ever. “Today getting kids out of the house, off the computer and actually experiencing real life experiences is monumental.” Lanphere has helped build a new kitchen at the facility and supports the auction Champions of Faith benefit dinner every year, helping disadvantaged kids take part in CYO and Camp programs.

When he was a boy, Brian Thompson’s parents took the kids to family camp at Camp Howard over multiple years. “I remember my dad leading the charge to jump in the pool,” filled with snow-melt water from the Bull Run Reservoir.

The organization has helped Brian and his wife Kyra instill that same joie de vivre in their own children. After years of CYO track and field, Will, the oldest, went on to run distance races and cross country for Gonzaga University. Their twin girls, both petite, were also active in CYO, Amelia running track and Emma playing basketball.

One moment at an Archbishop Howard (now St. Rose) school basketball game crystalizes the CYO spirit of competition for the Thompson parents. “Emma’s team was playing Madeleine,” recalls Kyra. “And there was a big girl on the Madeleine's team, probably twice Emma’s size… Both girls hung onto a jump ball. Emma's feet came off the ground and were swinging back and forth. Parents on both sides were laughing so hard… The bigger girl was very sweet and set Emma down and asked, ‘I didn't hurt you. Did I?’ And Emma slapped the ball out of her hand and said, ‘Play ball!’”

The exercise and teamwork at CYO help students set good habits. Like their donor parents, the children are giving back. Will volunteers as a coach for high school boys in Washington. And Emma, the feisty basketballer, directs camp counselors at Camp Howard. And that chilly pool? Thanks to the generosity of families like the Auxiers, Lanpheres and Thompsons, it’s now heated.

“The donors have made it possible for CYO and Camp Howard to not turn anyone away due to inability to pay,” says CYO executive director Sister Krista von Borstel. “No child has been left behind. Eleven years of Champions of Faith funding has made the real difference in providing opportunities for kids.”